Monash University sociologist Associate Professor Anita Harris, who is studying how young people deal with cultural diversity and manage conflict and change, said those in culturally diverse communities were shrugging off efforts to categorise them.
Her research is part of a four-year international project that includes Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, as well as Johannesburg in South Africa, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Prato in Italy. All are rapidly changing areas of high cultural diversity.
“Typically young people in those environments are seen as a problem. There is a lot of worry about ethnic youth gangs, young people fighting, or failing to understand each other’s backgrounds or needs,” Associate Professor Harris said.
Many young people’s sense of identity and their affiliations were in flux, she said: a mash-up of social and political networks that stretch from the local to the global, and incorporate ethnicity, religion, gender and individual interests.
The Australian component of her research has drawn on interviews with more than 100 people aged 15 to 25, from a wide range of backgrounds including Indigenous and Anglo Australians and young people with Afghan, African, Asian, European, Maori, Middle Eastern and Pacific Islander heritage.
“For this generation it is normal to be surrounded by diversity and to interact with people of different backgrounds in a way that it is not for older people. That doesn’t mean that young people in these diverse communities always get along well, or that they embrace diversity, but they accept it as normal,” Associate Professor Harris said.
She found that when there was conflict it was most commonly the result of sexual jealousy, male posturing, or access to limited shared resources. Combatants might “play the race card” in the heat of conflict, but race was rarely the cause of the conflict.
“Young people weren’t saying that they didn’t fight, but talked about conflict that had been resolved, things that were in the past, but which local media or politicians would not let go of,” she says. “And the people they fought with were also, at other times, friends. The popular notion that there are big ethnic groupings clashing with each other just didn’t bear out.”
Associate Professor Harris said that when it came to the question of national identity, or “being Australian”, many young people resisted a single allegiance. Hybrid cultural identities allowed them to feel part of many different groups simultaneously, a feeling enhanced by their ability to join the flow of global youth culture, via the internet.
Read the full story of Associate Professor Anita Harris’s research in ‘Global youth step over the ethnic fence’.
Find out more:
Ten Monash researchers become ARC Future Fellows
Monash researchers will explore the oldest stars in the galaxy, transform the manufacturing of high…
Troops in Terror Zone ‘cutting edge’ in journalism
Monash University’s journalism and multimedia students have joined forces with The Australian editorial team to produce a…
Express Yourself: why do World Cup stars matter?
It’s been a terrible World Cup. Germany and Argentina in the final. Again.
Monash student goes to the United Nations
Alistair Bayley visited the United Nations in New York as one of the winners of the Many Languages, One World essay contest.
Shanghai recently hosted the 3rd World Cultural Forum (WCF) – a Chinese initiative aimed at creating a forum for intercultural dialogue not dominated by ‘the West’. This year it chose the rather apt theme of ‘soft power’.
Welfare review fails to understand Australia’s labour market
The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System, led by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, is a vexed piece of work.
New Colombo plan scholarships awarded to Monash language students
Monash language students have found success through the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship program….
Monash grad named Walkley Student Journalist of the Year
Monash University’s journalism graduate Holly Humphreys has won the 2014 Walkley Student Journalist of the Year….
Indigenous Film Studies in the Digital World
A unique new digital tool will allow access to a wide range of sources of…
Dispelling Four Myths about Sexual Violence in Conflict
By Sara Davies and Jacqui True At the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in…
Celebrating the banality of the World Cup
by Andy Ruddock Everyone knows that the World Cup is a media event, before it…
Mid-year entry is your opportunity to start your degree in July. You don’t have to…